HTC One M8 2014-3

The HTC One (M8) might seem like the biggest news of the day, but there’s something bigger going on here. The HTC One is available starting now, as in today, the very day it was announced. Rarely, if ever, do we see a smartphone maker announce a product and then push it to the market on the very same day. It’s also a strategy, I think, to beat Samsung’s Galaxy S5 to the market.

Last year the two firms weren’t really going head-to-head on a release schedule. The original HTC One (M7) launched back in March 2013, while the Galaxy S4 actually didn’t hit the market until later, in April. Both devices were flagship smartphones, but the releases were far enough apart that it’s unlikely early adopters were having a hard time choosing between the two — at least, not until the Galaxy S4 hit the market. This time, however, HTC and Samsung are going to be fighting for consumers at about the same time – and HTC was able to sneak its phone into wireless stores a few weeks before Samsung. Yes, Galaxy S5 preorders have started, but consumers who want a phone now can pick up the M8. Will it work in HTC’s favor?

It just may, and it’s the aggressive move that HTC needs to make. The company is going to be among the first to get a Snapdragon 801 phone on store shelves in the U.S., and it has learned to adopt some of the features that have turned off Samsung fans in the past. For one, the HTC One (M8) has expandable storage — something that may have pushed consumers to a Samsung device previously. No, it doesn’t have a removable battery, but with both the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8) promising insane low-energy modes, some consumers may not find that as necessary as they would have in the past.

The HTC One (M8) is going to appeal to consumers on the shelf, too, since it’s going to sit as one of the few phones with a first-class aluminum design. The others being the iPhone 5s and the older HTC One (M7), which HTC will continue to sell at a lower price. Samsung’s sales speak for themselves, though —  the company sold 40 million Galaxy S4 units in just six months, something HTC hasn’t come close to achieving with its more recent launches.

Worse, the company faces a really big uphill challenge with the name.

HTC One M8 2014-VS-2013-Back

You and I, as tech geeks, understand that the HTC One (M8) is a nice step up from the HTC One (M7). But Joe Consumer over there on the couch? He’s going to hear “HTC One” and, quite frankly, probably won’t notice a difference when the new commercials start airing. Unless Joe Consumer walks into a store and asks, specifically, to see those models, there’s going to be confusion. Samsung, meanwhile, has an easier naming mechanism: everyone assumes the Galaxy S5 is better than the Galaxy S4, and they’re right. HTC has decided to spend more on marketing, though, and now more than ever it’s going to need to make sure it gets its message across to consumers. Clearly.

I think pundits in general, however, have been asking HTC to change its strategy and to be more aggressive. This is an example of one of those moves, and I think it’s a step in the right direction. Anything can change between now and the Galaxy S5 launch. Any product shortages or delays could really backfire on HTC – so supply is going to be super important.

This is HTC’s time to shine. The One (M8) is impressive in nearly every way, and if it isn’t a hit there’s a bigger problem at play. We know HTC can and does create first-rate smartphones, but now it’s time to see how well its strategy changes in the past year are going to pan out.